One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.
But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.
The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.
There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.
These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.
The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.
The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.
Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Children love to be active, and need to be to grow up healthy. But participating in sports and similar physical activities does harbor a risk for injury—especially involving the mouth.
Many oral injuries can be prevented, though, by wearing an athletic mouthguard during sports or other physical activities. Available in retail stores or custom-made by a dentist, mouthguards help cushion the mouth against hard contact.
But although a mouthguard minimizes oral injury risk, it can't eliminate the risk altogether. There's still a chance for oral trauma during physical activity. Here are some common injuries that could happen, and what you can do to lessen their impact.
Chipped teeth. A hard knock could cause a piece of tooth to chip off. If this happens, try to retrieve any chipped pieces and carry them with the child to a dentist as soon as possible. Teeth should be examined immediately after this kind of trauma and the dentist may be able to re-bond the broken pieces.
Displaced tooth. A severe blow could move one or more teeth out of place, loosening them or pushing them deeper into the jaw. Teeth with these kinds of injuries are in serious danger, so you should contact your dentist immediately. If after office hours, they may tell you to visit an ER for prompt attention.
Soft tissue injuries. The lips and other soft areas of the mouth can also become cut or bruised from a hit. Clean the area as well as possible, making sure there are no imbedded bits of dirt or tooth. Apply gentle, continuous pressure to stop any bleeding and cold compresses for swelling. If it's a deep cut, go immediately to an emergency room.
Knocked-out tooth. Although a serious injury, a tooth knocked completely out of its socket might still be saved through prompt action. First, find the tooth; handling it only by the crown end, clean off any dirt or debris with clean water. Gently place the tooth back into its socket and have the child bite down on gauze or a clean cloth to hold it in place. You should then go to a dentist or ER immediately.
If you would like more information on children's dental needs and care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Children's Dental Concerns & Injuries: Would You Know What to Do?”
Boosting your child's oral health and development should start early—even before their first tooth comes in! Getting off to the right start will pay dividends well into their adult years.
Here are 5 things to do, then, to help your child develop great oral health during their earliest years.
Begin oral hygiene early. To lower your child's risk of tooth decay, begin wiping out their mouth with a clean cloth after nursing to limit bacteria. When teeth do come in, gently brush them with just a dab of toothpaste, which you can gradually increase to a pea-size when they get older. Later, add flossing as well as training them to brush and floss for themselves.
Avoid too much sugar. Carbohydrates like refined sugar feed bacteria that cause tooth decay. To reduce these bacteria, moderate your child's sugar consumption by limiting sweets to meal times and cutting back on sodas, juices, and other types of sweetened drinks. Avoid bedtime bottles filled with these types of beverages including breast milk or formula.
Visit the dentist by age 1. Starting dental visits on or before your child's first birthday will help you stay one step ahead of any developing dental problems. Furthermore, children who get in the routine early for regular dental visits have a better time adjusting to them, and they're less likely to develop long-term anxiety over seeing the dentist.
Take advantage of fluoride. Tiny amounts of fluoride ingestion can give your child an edge over tooth decay. To take advantage of fluoride, use fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water, if your utility adds it. Your dentist can also directly apply fluoride to children's teeth high risk for decay. Be careful, though, because too much fluoride can cause staining. Talk with your dentist, then, about staying within fluoride limits.
Set the example. Children often follow their parents' lead—if you take your own dental care seriously, they will too. Make daily hygiene a family affair by brushing and flossing together. Let them also see that going to the dentist is a snap. By staying calm and relaxed yourself, they'll be less likely to be nervous about dental care.
If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children.”
Finding out you have a cavity can be an unwelcome surprise. The truth is, though, it didn't happen overnight, but the result of ongoing conditions in the mouth.
Those conditions usually begin with harmful oral bacteria. As a life form, these bacteria need food and lodging, which they readily find from the carbohydrates in your diet. The bacteria and food remnants form a thin biofilm that accumulates tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The bacteria in turn produce oral acid, which can soften and erode the teeth's protective enamel. As bacteria multiply the mouth's acidic levels rise, making cavity formation more likely.
But there's also a flip side to this scenario: Interrupting bacterial growth can help prevent cavities and other dental diseases. Here's how you can do just that.
Remove plaque buildup. It's a simple principle: Deprive bacteria of their refined carbohydrates to reduce their toxicity and remove daily plaque buildup with brushing and flossing. For an added boost, see your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning.
Curtail snacking on sweets. Bacteria love the refined sugar in pastries, candies and other sweets as much as we do. Thus, constant snacking on sweets throughout the day could actually foster bacterial growth. Instead, ease up on your sugar intake and limit sweets to meal times only.
Rinse after sugary drinks. Sodas, sports or energy drinks also provide bacteria with added sugar. They may also contain added forms of acid that further lower your mouth's pH level into the acidic danger zone for teeth. Make it a habit, then, to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking one of these beverages to dilute excess sugar or acid.
Take care of your saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid even more than plain water, usually in 30 minutes to an hour after eating. By contrast, not having enough saliva increases your risk for decay and other dental diseases. So, be sure to drink plenty of water, monitor medications that might interfere with saliva production, and use saliva boosting products if needed to keep your saliva production healthy.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
Most parents well remember the day they brought their new baby home from the hospital. And then—in what seems like the blink of an eye—that same child is heading out the door to go on their own. "Empty nest" parents can easily regret not having more time to help their children get a solid handle on life.
With what little time you do have, it comes down to priorities—focusing on those things that are most important for their future well-being. Health, of course, is a big part of that—and oral health in particular.
In fact, the state of their teeth and gums could have a big impact on the rest of their health as they get older. That's why it's crucial to foster good dental care and reinforce tooth-friendly habits during their childhood years. Here's how.
Practice daily hygiene. A lifetime of great teeth and gums depends on a continual, daily habit of brushing and flossing. One of the best gifts you can give your child is to teach them how to properly brush and floss.
Start dental visits early. Regular dental visits support daily hygiene, and provide an early warning system for possible dental disease. Starting visits by their first birthday may also help a child avoid anxiety, making it more likely they'll continue the practice in adulthood.
Give their teeth a healthy head start. Losing even a primary tooth to decay could affect their future dental health. And despite diligence about dental care, some children may still be prone to decay. Give your child an added boost with topical fluoride or sealants to help prevent the buildup of dental plaque.
Practice what you preach. Children often do what they see their parents doing. If you're making dental care a priority—brushing and flossing every day and visiting the dentist at least twice a year—and with a positive attitude, your kids are more likely to follow your lead.
There's so much you want to instill in your children to better ensure they'll have a happy and prosperous life. Make sure these dental care tips are on your short list.
If you would like more information on dental care for kids, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”
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